By Richard Bleil
Let’s talk about food, shall we? Maybe I’m just hungry, but I have to say: I love food. I know, I know, I know; who doesn’t, right? I’ve always been intrigued (as a side note) how, as a society, eating has become such a social event. We need to eat to survive; this is the goal of food, right? And yet, what do we do with our friends or on a date? We go to supper. Okay, on a date it’s often dinner and a movie, or, in my case, dinner and a face slap but food is still a part of it.
I’m fortunate. I have lived in several places around the US, and I am not afraid to try new and unusual foods. I kind of feel sorry for those who always have the same thing and won’t venture out of their comfort zone. Let’s be real; I love Mac ‘n’ Cheez ‘n’ Sausage. Especially if I add a bit of freshly grated Parmesan to it. I eat it frequently, but it’s not my entire life.
What I’ve discovered is that every place has a kind of specialization; something that they are so good at that it becomes a part of what defines that region. For example, I was born and raised in Ohio, where their sweet corn is unbelievable. You might not think of Ohio as having particularly amazing sweet corn, but that’s probably because they usually don’t export it. Generally speaking, they eat all of it themselves.
While we are discussing Ohio foods, I would be remiss in my duties if I failed to mention chili. Cincinnati is the chili capital of the world. I know; you’re thinking Texas, and I’ll admit that I do enjoy Texas chili, but not too long ago there was more chili coming out of Cincinnati alone than all of Texas. Now, I should mention that the two are not closely related. When you think chili, especially Texas chili, you’re probably thinking about sitting down to a bowl of hot spicy chili with chunks of ground meat, beans, green peppers, onions and so forth. Cincinnati chili, on the other hand, is more of a sauce. It’s not the kind of chili that you eat by the bowl. It has ground meat in it but much more finely dispersed, no chunks of any kind really, and no beans. Yes, you read that right; no beans. And it is very flavorfully spicy; not as hot as Texas chili, but there’s a reason for that. See, the idea with Cincinnati chili is to put it over a hot dog to create a coney dog, or over noodles. Served over noodles, you create your own “two way” (noodles and chili only), “three way” (adding freshly shredded colby or sharp cheddar cheese), “four way” (adding chopped onions) or “five way” (adding beans). I always liked four-way Cincinnati chili. Then, you add hot sauce to make it hot spicy to taste.
I was fortunate to live in Massachusetts, famous for their seafood. There’s a restaurant on the docks (or at least it used to be there) that, at the time anyway, had no name. It’s special was whatever came in that day. My preference has always been baked seafood as if it’s breaded and fried I feel like the flavor of the fish is lost…in my humble opinion. The interesting thing about Boston is that seafood is available everywhere. There is even a very well-known world-wide fast food place that will routinely offer lobster tail sandwiches that are not available anywhere else. One of the things I learned is that, when choosing lobster for food, avoid the largest. They are old and usually the meat is stringier and not as good. Instead, go for the mid-sized lobster.
Today I’m living in South Dakota. Out here, I love their buffalo meat. These steaks are juicy, very similar in flavor to beef but it tends to be more lean. In Indiana, I loved the brats. In New York, the ready availability of international foods is outstanding.
I love international foods. Many people fear Sushi because it’s “raw fish”, but the thing is that sushi has a very mild flavor. By the way, sushi is cut thinly and usually over a small block of rice. For the first time, I recommend starting with sushi, as sushimi is often cut thicker and not over rice. I also love Vietnamese “Pho”, which is a very hardy soup. Be careful, I love the version that is packed with a variety of meats, including tripe which is basically intestine. I know, a lot of people will be disgusted by that concept, but natural sausage casing is made from intestine. Back when food was not so abundant, you just didn’t waste food. The resulting uses were, well frankly, delicious.
Aaaaaaaaaaaand now I’m hungry.